- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The Biden Justice Department on Wednesday launched a law enforcement partnership with Australia to make it easier for officials to share digital evidence on crimes.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland signed off on a bilateral agreement aimed at cutting some red tape by allowing the two countries direct access to each other’s digital crime evidence, including information held by U.S.-based global providers.

“This agreement paves the way for more efficient cross-border transfers of data … so that our governments can more effectively counter serious crime, including terrorism,” Mr. Garland said.

Under the agreement, the U.S. can order providers under its jurisdiction to hand over digital evidence to Australia and vice versa.

Australian Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews said the “landmark” agreement will ensure international officials have timely access to evidence on serious crimes, including child sexual abuse, terrorism and ransomware attacks.

“Until now, Australian agencies have relied on complex and time consuming mechanisms, such as mutual legal assistance agreements to access crucial evidence from other countries,” Ms. Andrews said. “Investigations and prosecutions have stalled and even derailed as a result of these arrangements.”

Negotiations for the agreement began in 2019 under former Attorney General William Barr. It will now be subject to review by Congress and the Australian parliament.

The partnership stems from the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act passed by Congress in 2018. The U.S. also entered into a similar agreement last year with the United Kingdom.

• Emily Zantow can be reached at ezantow@washingtontimes.com.

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